Diary of the Dead (2008)
Director: George A. Romero
The nurse zombie. She cares, she scares.
It is a bit shocking to see Romero directing another addition to his ever-growing zombie mythology only 3 years after the satisfying Land of the Dead. At first, I feared that the film may be a little rushed. It felt as if Romero was trying to capture the recent obsession with faux or perceptional reality, otherwise known as Blair-Witch-ism, before the fad changes into the next unforeseen pop-culture explosion. In a way, that statement is true but it doesn't mean that the end result is anything less than what the legendary director has done with this franchise in the past.
The very first zombie attack.
Diary follows a group of film students as they cross the country trying to find refuge from the rising dead epidemic that started while they were doing a film shoot. The student director, Jason Creed, decided to chronicle what is happening around him to everyone's annoyance since he is taping every single second on his video camera. Diary is presented as a film within a film narrated by Jason's girlfriend who also edited the entire presentation. Unlike the previous Romero zombie films, this one jumps from one location to the next and focuses on the youngsters instead of a group of "real" adults. Romero definitely took a big risk with the cast as well as adding in Youtube/Myspace referentialities into the mix, jeopardizing the sense of historical and nostalgic relevancies that have been strongly established in his previous movies. Romero just didn't have the choice and revert back to the current modern world to successfully translate his new documentary-style viewpoint of the initial events leading towards the eventual apocalypse of mankind. It's more damning to the whole timeline when all the films in the series are looked at in its entire spectrum but apparently Romero must have thought that it was a good trade just so that he could tackle the debatable question of participation absence in cinema verite: this particular thematic analysis is something that has been explored many times before and Romero's take on it, though inspired, feels a bit tacky at best.
In the end, Diary is an instant classic that will continue to get better with each viewing. Though the lessons learned from this one have less bite, it's still constant and aggressive in its social commentaries. The climax is less vicious as well but there are enough zombie mayhems throughout that will satisfy even Romero's most demanding gorehounds (scythe death for the win!). The direct sequel to this movie is slated for release next year and I have a feeling that it will be twice as good as this one.
RATING: 4 out of 5